COVID-19 and the Disability Manager

Posted by Ellen Mitchell, MA, RN, CCM on 04/29/2020 - 5:04 PM

FAMILIES FIRST CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE ACT (FFCRA) PART 1

The rapid developments around COVID-19 from both the regulatory and Human Resources perspectives require Disability Management Specialists (DMS) to react quickly with the information needed. The delivery of disability management services involves a complex interplay among workers with disabilities, employers, insurance carriers, labor unions, medical service providers, government agencies, and others (CDMS, n.d.).

We will look at recent temporary revisions made to the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and how they impact the work of the DMS.

Now, the question arises…Where is the workplace???

We are all aware by now, that many employers in areas hard-hit by COVID 19 have transitioned their staff to a remote setting, usually from home.  We also know that as of this writing there are differing definitions of what constitutes essential personnel based on geographic location.

That essential personnel might be found in grocery or warehouse chains, big box stores, health care, municipal services, and other sites, as determined by state and other regulatory bodies.  More on that in a moment!

Regardless of how the workplace is identified in these times, regulations remain in play and it is important to have a basic understanding of the rules governing process and stakeholder rights and obligations (CDMS, n.d.).

Legal and regulatory guidelines can be very complicated in “normal” times. Regarding disability management and COVID-19, one needs to be familiar with and stay current on changes to the FMLA (CDMS, n.d.), (Dept. of Labor, n.d.).

The newly passed Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) went into effect on April 1, 2020.  It will sunset on December 31, 2020. It adds new requirements for paid sick leave and family medical leave act (FMLA) enhancements for businesses with fewer than 500 employees. Employers with less than 50 employees can seek hardship exemptions for some of the requirements.

Here are the key differences from the FMLA in its original state (Dept. of Labor, n.d.). An employee is eligible if they:

  1. Are subject to Federal, State or Local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19;
  2. Have been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine;
  3. Are symptomatic for and awaiting a diagnosis of COVID-19;
  4. Are caring for someone described in 1 or 2 (Dept. of Labor, 2020)

Employers must provide 2 weeks PAID sick leave at the usual pay rate of employees who are:

  1. Sick with COVID-19
  2. On Quarantine for COVID-19

Employees do NOT have to use PTO/earned sick time to be eligible. Employees can receive two weeks of leave at 2/3 pay to care for a family member sick with COVID-19.

Additionally, employers must provide up to 10 additional weeks of paid leave related to an employee or employee’s family coping with COVID-19.  This is paid at 2/3 the employee’s salary up to $200/day.  This includes loss of childcare due to COVID-19 closures.

These benefits are cumulative and are capped at 80 hours.  Therefore, if an employee has already used two weeks of leave for being sick or on quarantine from COVID-19, they cannot then apply for additional payment for another reason.  An employee can always use their own PTO or paid sick leave to cover in addition to FFCRA (Childress, 2020).

There are exceptions to every rule…

Remember when I said, “more on that in a moment?”  Here’s the moment…

Although the existing FMLA (Dept. of Labor, n.d.) stands as always, not every industry or employer is covered by the temporary amendments (Dept. of Labor, 2020). 

  1. Most employees of the federal government are covered by Title II of the FMLA and are not covered by the expanded family and medical leave provisions of the FFCRA. However, federal employees covered by Title II of the FMLA are covered by the paid sick leave provision. (Dept. of Labor, 2020).
  2. Health care employers are exempted from these amendments, including:
    1. Doctor’s offices, hospitals, health care centers, clinics, post-secondary educational institutions offering health care instruction, medical schools, local health department or agencies, nursing facilities/homes, retirement facilities, home health care providers, labs, pharmacies;
  3. Emergency transport:
    1. This includes military or national guard, law enforcement officers, correctional institution personnel, fire fighters, emergency medical services personnel, physicians, nurses, public health personnel, emergency medical technicians, paramedics, emergency management personnel, 911 operators, public works personnel.

Depending on your role in your organization, you may be called upon to interpret or consult on policy development to help your affected workforce. As this pandemic continues, there could be much more to follow. You will need to develop a process with these and other resources, so you are aware of how various regulatory and legal aspects can impact your decision making.

We, at the CCMC, hope that it is helpful to you in your work.  We appreciate all the efforts you have put into responding to this ongoing health crisis and are here to help interpret the rapidly changing regulatory arena.  More to come on this topic!

 

References

Certified Disability Management Specialists (CDMS), (n.d.).  Introduction to Disability Management.  Core Knowledge Curriculum, Domain I, 2nd ED.  Topic 4.  Accessed April 6, 2020 from:  https://cdmscourses.globalclassroom.us/stratus/mod/page/view.php?id=632

Childress, R. (2020).  How the new COVID-19 sick leave FMLA law could impact associations.  Accessed April 10, 2020 from: https://associationsnow.com/2020/04/how-the-new-covid-19-sick-leave-fmla-law-could-impact-associations/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=rasa_io

United States Department of Labor (n.d.).  Family Medical Leave Act.  Accessed April 10, 2020 from: www.dol.gov/elaws/fmla.htm

United States Department of Labor (2020). FFCRA Questions and Answers.  Accessed April 17, 2020 from:   https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-questions

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